Photo by Donald Lamb
After a tremendous showdown at the regional championship, Suhki Khosla and Nick Morken gave us a stellar rematch at the 3A State Championship on Saturday evening at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
Last week the tandem put on a show by quickly breaking away from the pack. Morken, the Niceville senior, shadowed Khosla the entire race. They polished off that round both in the top ten all time in Florida with times of 4:06.45 and 4:07.12, respectively. (Watch that race)
Photo by Jeff Adams
At state things didn't look too much different. Early on the duo came through with the pack in a 62-second opening lap. They went through 800 at the same pace, with some of the toughest of the chasers fighting to hang on to the 2:04 half mile. By the third lap, they had clearly broken free and crossed 1200 meters with a 3:06 split (metronome consistent pace). Then the Leon junior opened it up and negative split with a 59-second last lap, breaking loose a bit from Morken.
Down the final stretch Khosla looked strong and comfortable; Morken looked like he had a bungee cord on him, being pulled along. Running on his future home track at UNF, Nick's form breaking down from the torrential pace over the last 50 meters, but he refused to let go. They finished 4:05.96 and 4:07.95, respectively, both times underneath the former 1600m state meet record. Khosla extended his national lead in the event and bettered his own all-time Florida #6 position.
Then coming back later that evening for the 3200 meters, Khosla was primed to make it a double-gold night. His chief rival was once again a senior from Niceville--this time Thomas Howell.
At the regional championship Howell managed to stay within six seconds of Khosla, who broke the nine-minute barrier earlier in the year at the FSU Relays. They went 9:10 and 9:16 in that race last week. This time around it was much the same...only faster!
The final times of 9:05.75 and 9:11.07 (again six seconds of separation) brought the crowd to their feet, and it brought plenty of other distance stars in tow along with them. In what is one of the deepest state meet 3200s in recent decades, six runners found their way under the prestigious 9:20 mark. Tyler Bennett of Ft. Myers (9:16.50), Noah Kemp of St. Augustine (9:17.05), Mark Robertson of Washington (9:18.27), and Jake Poore of Land O Lakes (9:18.68) all were under the "Nason Line" as it's come to be called.
Watch it: 3A 3200m Race Highlights (Coming) | 3200m Race Photos
Photo by Jeff Adams
Morken and Howell, for their part, joined teammates Jack Massey and Trip Davis for a 7:50.56 state championship for Niceville in the 3A 4x800 race. That relay win very meaningful to them, a tight-knit group of seniors who have helped Niceville be a force to be reckoned with in the distance scene these last four seasons!
Khosla's state meet performance helps to cap an incredible junior regular season. After having a fanstastic fall Sukhi has already cemented himself among the all-time distance greats in Florida. After the stellar regional performance it even prompted Sammy Vazquez, the 1500m Olympian from Flagler Palm Coast, to comment on Twitter that his state record in the 1600/Mile might just be in serious jeopardy. The 4:05/9:05 double may be on paper the greatest distance double in state history. However, historians are quick to call "apples to oranges" due to the greater break between the two events that the new combined classification format has created.
Regardless of where it should technically stack up among past state meet doubles, it is incredibly impressive. And thankfully we've got one more year of Sukhi's assault on the all-time list to look forward to!